Thursday, 29 April 2010

Defend Socialist Cuba Against Media Lies

by Dominic O’Hara, Rock Around The Blockade (RATB).

In this time of global economic crisis people’s livelihoods are being attacked while bankers boast of their bonuses. Politicians compete in an electoral fraud to cover up savage cuts in health, education and social services. While British government complicity in torture is repeatedly exposed and the bloody imperialist occupation in Afghanistan intensifies, the BBC has dedicated its resources to focusing on group of less than 30 Cuban women, known as the ‘Ladies in White’, protesting against supposed human rights abuses in Cuba. Why is this?

The Ladies in White are the families of 75 Cubans found guilty in 2003 of violating the country’s constitution by accepting payment from US-based and US government institutions for promoting their objective of destabilising and overthrowing the Cuban Revolution. Like every country in the world, Cuba has the right to defend itself against subversion and terrorism, and the right to imprison those proven guilty of these crimes. Acting as a propagandist of British government foreign policy, the BBC seems to think that only those countries that comply with the dictates of British and US imperialism have a right to defend themselves. For 50 years Cuba has fought to defend its independence from US imperialism’s attempts to return Cuba to the status of neo-colony. To demonise Cuba, the media ignore its immense achievements in health, education, culture, science and sustainable development, to focuses on ‘human rights’ by which it means the ‘freedom’ of capital. It ignores the violation of human rights inflicted by the US’s criminal blockade, its sponsorship of terrorism and constant interference in domestic affairs, all supported by the European Union.

In the 1980s, the BBC did not hail the families of Irish Hunger Strikers as human rights activists. It censored coverage of the worldwide movement built in their support. For 35 years the mothers and grandmothers of 30,000 young people tortured, murdered and ‘disappeared’ by the US-backed dictatorship demonstrated at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Where was the BBC? The BBC do not report on the international campaign to demand freedom for the Cuban 5 – five Cubans incarcerated for over ten years in the US for gathering information about acts of terrorism being planned by extremists in Miami. Even when the BBC does report on hunger strikes taking place throughout Britain’s racist immigration detention centres – a recent hunger strike at Yarlswood Detention Centre involved over 50 women - it does not link the protests to the issue of human rights.

The British media has found the resources to give significant coverage to the hunger strike and death of a single man in Cuba, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who they have honoured with the label ‘political prisoner’. In reality he was not goaled for ‘dissident’ activity, but for petty crimes, included attacking someone with a machete. The world corporate media ignore or skip over this rather inconvenient truth to eulogise Zapata as a martyr for the cause of human rights. Among the rights which Zapata himself was demanding were a television, telephone and a cooker – in his cell. Thus, even while Zapata’s mother thanked Cuban doctors for the care they gave him, Zapata became a pawn in their propaganda war against Cuban socialism.

We condemn the hypocrisy of those who preserve today’s world of exploitation and oppression. Cuba is fighting for a new world of justice, peace and prosperity. The success of Cuban socialism has exposed the fundamental corruption and exploitation of capitalist society. The Cuban Revolution has shown the poor majority of the world population that fundamental change is not only necessary but that it is possible. We must contribute to this international movement, starting here in Britain: exposing media lies and defending Cuban socialism; exposing fraudulent elections and defending our rights to work, housing, health, education, culture and sport – human rights universally enjoyed by everyone in Cuba.

Download this letter and send it to the Minister of State for Europe and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to demand to know why British diplomats have been supporting the demonstrations of the Ladies in White.

Cuban Educational Cooperation Continues in East Timor

Source: Cuban News Agency, 5 April 2010

A group of 32 Cuban professors arrived in East Timor to continue the mission of bringing education to the most isolated places of this Asian nation, which plans to wipe out illiteracy by 2012. This contingent replaces the one that worked for two years in that country, where tens of thousands of people have already learned how to read and write by way of the Yes I Can Cuban literacy teaching method, the Prensa Latina news agency reports. More than 50% of the population in East Timor is illiterate, so this educational task has the support of the nation's authorities and institutions, which guarantees the success of such humane social task.

The replacement of Cuban doctors who had been working there also arrived last week, the contribution of which to the improvement of health indicators in East Timor has been acknowledged by the country's government. The Cuban physicians have won the love and respect of the people of East Timor for their excellent service. These services began in April 2004, and have made it possible to perform thousands of surgeries, reduce infant mortality rate and train doctors-to-be, among other achievements.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Open letter to British Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding Cuban mercenaries

Hundreds of revolutionaries take to the streets to protest at a parade by the ‘Ladies in White’ on 21 March 2010 shouting slogans against the European Union at Volker Pellet, deputy head of the German embassy, and Michael Upton (R), deputy head of the British embassy. These diplomats were violating the principle of non-intervention and non-interference by supporting the ‘Ladies’ who have publicly admitted being funded from the US.

Chris Bryant MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A


Dear Christopher Bryant, MP

On Saturday 10 April 2010 you addressed a plenary session of the Society of Latin American Studies annual conference in Bristol, speaking as a member of the British government; Minister of State for Europe and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. One of the attendees asked you to explain why Michael Upton, deputy head of the British Embassy, in Havana had been participating in demonstrations by the ‘Ladies in White’, in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States, Resolution 36/103, 91st Plenary meeting, 9 December 1981.

The Ladies in White have protested monthly for seven years without interference or restrictions being placed on them by the Cuban state, its agents or its citizens. Recently, in a televised interview, their leader Laura Pollan admitted having received external funding. This money comes from Santiago Alvarez, a Miami-based Cuban exile, who has been linked to terrorist actions against the Cuban people. In November 2006 he was sentenced in the United States to nearly four years in prison for his part in a conspiracy to stockpile weapons for possible use against Cuba. Alvarez is also a key sponsor of the terrorist Luís Posada Carriles who has boasted about his part in the bombing of a Cuban commercial flight in 1976, which killed all 73 people on board.

Your initial response to the academic who raised the question was to claim that you could not see any problem with diplomats participating in demonstrations in their host countries. This suggests an alarming lack of knowledge about the international principle of non-intervention and non-interference, particularly given your governmental responsibilities. However, when the Ambassador of the Venezuelan embassy in London, with whom you shared the platform, affirmed this principle contained in Resolution 36/103, you agreed to investigate this extremely serious matter.

We are therefore writing to request an immediate investigation to determine why British diplomats are violating the terms of their post.

Yours sincerely,


We are asking all supporters of socialist Cuba and Cuba's right to self-determination to write to Chris Bryant at email address provided - or post the letter above as soon as possible.

RATB reports: The struggle of the urban land committees in Venezuela

Land and housing for the people!
by Sam McGill in Venezuela.

“Lets go to them, go to these sites (empty buildings and disused land), because we have to build houses there!” - Hugo Chavez Frias, Sunday 11 April 2010 (from Alo Presidente).

Currently in the city of Merida (Merida State, North West Venezuela) there are approximately forty-eight interconnected land occupations taking place. Based on Articles 22 and 33 of the Urban Land Act, urban land committees identify disused land and empty buildings in the area and organise to guard it for ninety days, after which it is recognised as their land. Working alongside the Ezequiel Zamora Coordination and various unions such as the Union of Social Workers, they put pressure on local mayors and governors, with funding from PDVSA to build popular housing for the people.

Though a national call, the most developed committees and networks have been vigilant in Merida, particularly in response to business group plans to convert land into shopping malls and casinos without consulting Community Councils or other organs of popular power. The law around urban land was strengthened in August 2009 when the National Assembly unanimously passed emergency regulations giving land committees and communities more power to take over the land. The people responded with organised committees and land custodies and now Chavez is pressuring Mayors and Governors to follow through with the law, facilitating, funding and commencing the clearing of land and construction of popular housing.

The Land committee of Las Americas, have been occupying a large block of overgrown and disused land opposite the Venezuelan Social Security Institute for forty days, nearly half of the ninety-day target. It’s 200 members organise shifts to guard the land, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one overnight. As Maribel Guillen, on shift to guard the land emphasises “This land is not being used productively, there are people who need houses in our community, we will continue to guard the land and put pressure on whoever necessary to get houses built here”.

This struggle is particularly important in the run up to the September National Assembly elections. Opposition Mayors and Governors are maneuvering to stall the process, blocking funding, adding bureaucratic obstacles or 'losing' paperwork. However the continued fight within the community and revolutionary sections of the state will determine the success of the struggle for housing, development of community power and ultimately the progress and popularity of the Revolution.

Expropriation! Confiscation! Nationalisation!
Land and housing for people not profit!

RATB reports: FUSPD - United Socialist Front of People with Disabilities

On Saturday 10 April 2010, Frente Unido Socialista de Personas con Discapacidad (FUSPD - United Socialist Front of People with Disabilities) celebrated its first birthday with a friendly basketball game in Municipio Guacara, Valencia, Carabobo State, Venezuela. Jose Rodriguez, the President of FUSPD explained to Sam McGill of RATB, the history behind FUSPD and its aims.

RATB: What are the objectives of FUSPD?
JR: Our objective is to achieve, in accordance with our capacities, the integration of people with disabilities, into family and community life. To mediate direct participation as citizens, with our rights, incorporated into the joint participation of society and family. We also focus on using community spaces that rightfully belong to us as members of Venezuelan society, participating in areas of work, politics, social (society), economy, health, culture and sports, with equal conditions and rights. We support people and ourselves to demonstrate our capacities.

RATB: What was the situation like for people with disabilities before the Bolivarian Revolution?
JR: Before, it [cost] approximately 80,000 bolivars for the eye operations like I’ve received. After I had a motor bike accident, I received my eye operations free with Mission Milagro (Miracle); I’ve received free operation on my legs, skull, and teeth-with the Mission Sonrisa (Smile). I went to live in Maternidad, Caracas in a “Centro de attencion integral a personas con discapacidad” (Centre of integral attention for people with disabilities). For one year I received free food, free healthcare, free clothes, toiletries and I lived there for free. This helped me to get rehabilitated. The programme works with the Mission Negra Hipolita and also provides attention for people with drug and alcohol problems and those on the streets. The Centres have a 3-month minimum programme where if you want to receive treatment you agree to stay there 3 months without leaving. This is due to the connection between disabilities and drug/alcohol use.

Of course not everyone who has a disability lives on the streets or becomes addicted to drugs but because before this government, people with disabilities were literally left out on the streets to die, the issues often go hand in hand. With these rehabilitation centres you can stay there for one year without paying a thing, this is really important because many people can’t work or their families can’t support them. Depending on you disability or problem you are encouraged to take courses, practice sports, everyone has to get active in doing something. If after a year you want to stay more you can do but you have to contribute, they help you find work, and you contribute what you can afford. This means that people get back on their feet and get their lives back. Obviously there are people who can’t ever work or can never live independently and there are other projects and places where they can live and get the support they need. For me, the government helped me with my house that I live in now. They provided me with a house and kitted it out with all the equipment, all of which is worth 150,000 Bolivars, now I live independently, work and run FUSPD with others.

Before, disabilities or people left incapacitated after accidents and injuries were ignored, outcast and segregated. If you had money you could get treatment, but if you didn’t have money the doctors would turn their backs. With the arrival of the Cuban doctors with Barrio Adentro, people began to be attended to and be treated. Now with the 2007 “Ley de personas con discapacidad” (Law of people with disabilities) we have rights that have to be respected, there are laws, for example each enterprise has to employ people with disabilities, at a rate no less that 5% of its workforce.

RATB: Can you tell me more about the work of FUSPD; is it National or local to Valencia?
JR: With support from friends and comrades I set up FUSPD in 2009, first it was just in Valencia, in Municipio Guacara, that’s still where most of the work is based but it is national and anyone with disabilities in any area in the whole of Venezuela can get involved. Our work consists of finding and meeting people from the community with disabilities. Getting to know them, organising sports games, like basketball. We run a computer course in the el club la Guajira (Guajira club), share information about rights and the laws. Our work is incorporated in the table of the local communal councils (consejo communales). Now we’re working with the Mission Che Guevara which is currently running a pilot project, supporting people to get involved in work, job training and education opportunities. Of course we fight for equal rights within everything we get involved in too. We go out and incorporate people with disabilities into daily life with dignity and support them to stop just being social welfare projects.

RATB: You’ve achieved a lot in one year, how did you begin this kind of work?
JR: I was so grateful for the attention and support I was given, once I’d got back on my feet, got some vision back, and started walking again, I wanted to do something to support the revolution, give back some of the support I’d got. But I needed to think of a good way to do it, I can’t give much money, I don’t have training as a doctor or teacher or anything so I decided to set up FUSPD because I realized there are lots of people like me and we need to get involved in the revolution, fight for our own space within it and also give back the support that we’ve received by giving political support to the revolution.

You can’t just take all the time, you need to give back too, we need to raise consciousness-sometimes when people receive their money or wheelchairs or other equipment they need they sell them on and just think about the money that they make, this damages and robs from the revolution. I also wanted to build consciousness and show to other people that we have a place in the revolution and we can build to support it. FUSPD is getting support from the Mayor of Guacara, the Contraloria Municipal, the municipal council, PDVSA, Mission Ribas and the Mission Che Guevara. This kind of support and the rights we have won can only be possible in a socialist revolution, a socialist process and so we need to defend it.

Interview by Sam McGill

FUSPD can be contacted on 0416 243 69 14 and the group meets every Wednesday at 2pm in el club la Guajira, Municipality Guacara, Valencia, Carabobo State, Venezuela.

RATB reports: ENFODEP - Test of Formation of Popular Educators

ENFODEP, revolutionising thought and community education since 1992

by Sam McGill reporting from Venezuela.

"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." - Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Drawing on the theory and practice of Paulo Freire, ENFODEP (Ensayo de Formacion de Educadores Populares - test of formation of popular educators) has been developing the political reflection needed for sustained community action since 1991.

I was lucky enough to volunteer and live with two of its founding members in Vargas State for seven weeks and get an insight into its aims and achievements. Rafael and Ivonne Delgado began in the 1970’s and 1980’s as active members of ASOCITE (Associacion Civil de Terepaima- a community organisation and system of barrio committees founded in 1976) in La Vega, Caracas. Primarily the experience of Rafael and Ivonne began with applying Paulo Freire’s methods of teaching literacy to communities of La Vega. Active in a time of extreme poverty (70% poverty, 40% extreme poverty in 1998 before the Chavez government) and repression, the work of ASOCITE developed into a struggle for housing, education and social rights including hunger strikes, government office occupations, a newspaper and a radical radio show.

It has to be remembered that at this time, political action was criminalised and repressed. Rafael explained that meetings and production of material had to be done in secret and even possession of Marxist or revolutionary books or music was criminalised. This political oppression, coupled with soaring poverty and economic plunder through an IMF agreement under presidency of Carlos Andes Perez resulted in the Caracazo on 27-28 February 1989.

The Caracazo or popular uprising was met with the full force of the state, anywhere between 270 people-10,000 people were estimated to have been killed as army and police opened fire on people in residential areas, then detained thousands, many of who dissapeared. Rafael and Ivonne recounted that at this time there was an explosion of popular consciousness yet many of the left were busy with other things and the explosion needed a direction, a formation in order to develop from a spontaneous explosion to something more sustained and capable of challenging the state and transforming the future.

ASOCITE began to discuss and meet with other similar groups in Caracas with the aim of coordinated development and political formation. At this time Rafael graduated from CEPAP, a programme of investigation and a nucleus of the National Experimental University of Simon Rodriguez (UNESR). Within this context, in 1991, Rafael, Ivonne, ASOCITE, and other groups such as INVEDECOR and the National Association of Social Workers, founded ENFODEP with a view to political, critical socialist discussion of community struggles and the formation of popular educators, the process of transformation where people become protagonists of change.

Popular educators, in the view of ENFODEP are not simply community workers or youth workers, but any member of the community who takes on the role of raising consciousness and critical thought of their family, co-workers, and neighbourhood. This can only be achieved through self reflection, and action within a group. In this manner and with self financing from member and supporter donations, ENFODEP was created through the fusion of the ideas of ASOCITE, Paulo Freire and CEPAP.

In 1997, ENFODEP developed as a course recognised by UNESR. Although it differs from a university programme in that students, graduates, founding members and friends/supporters alike are all part of its development and thought; students of ENFODEP are supported to work within three projects for 4-6 years and then receive a qualification recognised by a university. Currently ENFODEP has 25 participants over 3 centres in Vargas, Caracas and Portuguesa. Over the last 13 years, 50 people have completed the course and gained the qualification. The most important aspect however is the self-development and group reflection of participants.

Currently ENFODEP in Vargas, where I was volunteering, meets every Saturday when students get together to share their experiences, critically and politically analyse their assignments, supported with reflections from Rafael and Ivonne. In March 2010, ENFODEP Vargas held the annual meeting to discuss and develop the curriculum. This was mainly focused on revising aspects of the course to include the changes and developments within the Bolivarian Revolution. It has to be remembered that ENFODEP was formed in the context of a repressive neo-liberal regime, shattered by the election of Chavez and the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution. Now the focus needs to be critiquing the revolutionary process, but with the aim to improve and develop it and the popular community power that it offers.

The aim for 2010-2011 is also to expand the network of ENFODEP, developing the project further in Portuguesa state and expanding into Lara, Cojedes and possibly Carabobo states. If they can secure advertisement funding for the Saltaire, a community newspaper based in Vargas state, then this will also financially support ENFODEP in this development.

Although ENFODEP is the main project in Vargas and Caracas for Rafael and Ivonne, they continue to practice their commitment and methodology through sustained work in their community, La Salina, a rural village on the coast in Vargas State.

They are part of the Paulo Freire cooperative that runs the Salvador Garmendia community library and cinema. The library is open every weekday for students to come and investigate coursework and seek advice with their studies. The cinema functions every Thursday for adults and Saturday when young people come to watch free films. They continue to publish Saltaire with input from the local population and have been key to bringing Mission Robinson, Mission Ribas and Mission Cultura to La Salina and neighbouring Puerto Carayaca. With over 30 years of community experience they are certainly significant protagonists in the continued development and process of the Revolution in Venezuela.

ENFODEP continues to facilitate community activists, popular educators and revolutionaries and demonstrates how a small organisation of politicised, conscious and committed participants can have a big impact, supporting the national transformation of the Venezuelan people into protagonists of change, determining their own future and sovereignty.

RATB reports: Life in La Salina, Parroquia Carayaca, Vargas State, Venezuela

by Sam McGill, who is a member of Rock around the Blockade (RATB) reporting from Venezuela.

La Salina is a small rural village of about 2000 people in Vargas State approximately ninety minutes from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. I had the opportunity to volunteer there for seven weeks working in a communal library teaching English, supporting the facilitators of Mission Ribas, (a high school level free education program for adults) and volunteering in the local school.
My partner also had the opportunity to work with the library making music with local young people. We were invited here by Rafael and Ivonne Delgado, two people whose history precedes them. Rafael and Ivonne have about 30 years of experience of working in the community. Within this time they have been active members and founders of ASOCITE (a community organization which began fighting for housing, education and social rights in the 1970’s and 1980’s) in La Vega, Caracas and also ENFODEP (Ensayo de Formacion de Educadores Populares), which trains, forms and qualifies popular educators who work in community development with a strong socialist political analysis. ENFODEP was created through the fusion of the ideas of ASOCITE and CEPAP an organization of the National Experimental University of Simon Rodriguez (UNESR). They began work with ENFODEP in 1992.

Currently ENFODEP in Vargas meets every Saturday when students get together to share their experiences, critically and politically analyse their assignments and receive first class training from Rafael and Yvonne, themselves popular educators with decades of experience. They are part of a network of three ENFODEP centres nationally in Caracas, Vargas and Acarigua.
They are also part of the Paulo Freire cooperative that runs the Salvador Garmendia community library and cinema. The library is open every weekday for students to come and investigate coursework and seek advice with their studies. The cinema functions every Thursday for adults and on Saturdays when young people come to watch free films. For an activist from England, a country where there free youth activities are hard to come by, free children’s films are a refreshing change from the expense of £5-7 for one person in the mega cinema complexes in the UK.

Casa Communal
In addition to the library where ENFODEP and the cinema are based, the community has organised a casa communal (communal house), a housing project, a casa de alimentation (local food provision centre where food and meals are distributed freely to the most needy) Mission Ribas and a grandparents club.
The casa communal is the base of the local consejo communal (community council). Although the community council has had a turbulent history where one council disintegrated and currently another has been formed and is functioning with few of the original members of the old council; the casa communal has many achievements to be proud of; there is a housing office in the casa as part of SUVI, (a project that aims to substitute new housing for Venezuelans who live in precarious shanty towns). Organised with the support of Mary Luz Pestano and Mirtia Yauquez, the housing office covers La Salina and nearby Puerto Carayaca and to date eighty people in the local area have benefited from home transfers, support after house collapse (a common issue in Vargas especially after the mudslide disaster in 1998) maintenance of houses and assignation of new houses. To date they have engaged 105 employees, donated paint and assisted with house decorations for forty families and organized various sports activities for the community.

INCES (the National Institute of training and Socialist Education)
The casa communal has existed for two years and also houses committees of health, services, education, tourism, sport, culture, communication and Mission Negra Hipolita. Negra Hipolita nationally provides free rehabilitation centres and programmes for people on the streets focusing on drug addicts, people with mental health issues or physical problems, alcoholism and other social problems that often keep people on the streets. The casa communal also functions as a community centre, providing karate classes, children’s theatre and, since February 2010, electricity classes have been provided in the casa communal by Eduardo Urbina, a local tutor through the INCES project. INCES (the National Institute of training and Socialist Education) is a state funded project that was taken over from the old INCE organization that solely focused on preparing young people for work. Now with INCES in conjunction with the “Socialist Che Guevara Mission” (La Mission de Che Guevara Socialista), socialist thinking runs through the project, developing Che’s ideas of “The New Man”(and woman) and raising political consciousness among young people.

INCES provides free education in a number of practical subject to students outside of school or work who want to gain qualifications for employment. The INCES project in La Salina is currently training twelve students who after 241 hours of classes will gain a certificate allowing them access to an occupation in electricity sector. This is particularly relevant for the young people of the area as La Salina is next door to a CORPOELEC (the state-owned electricity company) thermoelectric plant.

I also had the opportunity of visiting an INCES centre of formation in La Quizanda, in the state of Valencia. The centre provides training in areas such as topography, electricity, painting and decorating, unit pricing and financial management, carpentry, construction and metal work. We were invited to observe a carpentry class by Angel Cedeño, a local activist. We also had the chance to discuss with the students about their experience and compare education in the UK and in Venezuela. One of the main things that stood out was the privatization of education in the UK in comparison to Venezuela. For example in the UK during 1980’s and 1990’s there were many more technological colleges that trained people in skilled manual labour. Now many colleges have been run down and often young people take on apprenticeships with employers. This might mean working with an employer for up to two years on low or no pay in the hope of securing a job with the employer afterwards. Predictably, many employers use the logic of capitalism to treat the apprenticeships as a source of free and cheap labour. Instead of taking on the student as an employee with a salary and contract rights, they often ditch them and take on another student for two years. The young people of INCES were shocked to hear of the situation in the UK as so often it is painted in the media as a democratic safe haven where all needs are met and we all have tea and biscuits at 3pm every day!

The La Quizanda centre is one of five in Carabobo state; there is usually one main centre of INCES in each state with many local or specialist branches which reach out into local and rural areas like La Salina. It was great to see the national centre of formation serving a range of areas and teaching over eighty students, then to see the INCES in action in a rural area like La Salina, providing education for work in local sources of employment.

Casa de Alimentation
The Casa de Alimentation (food house) in La Salina, is fundamental to many of its members in the community. It was opened in 2003 and currently supports 150 people who can visit it for a free hot meal every day. Usually its members are older people, alcoholics, drug users, ill people, single mothers or unemployed. With the support of Mercal (a socialist state subsidized food market) the state pays the workers of the Casa de Alimentation and also for the food, and for special occasions, like Christmas, also provides free bags of food. The members get involved with the cooking, cleaning and general running of the centre which helps to create a sense of communal property and dignity.

This project runs alongside the Madres de Barrio (mothers of the neighbourhood) which supports young single mothers with money to buy food, clothes, medicines and other necessities for them and their children. Approximately 100 young women are inscribed in the project, which also supports them in studying and organizes community voluntary work.

A backbone of health services to many rural communities is the Barrio Adentro project. La Salina houses a walk-in clinic which runs Monday to Friday and provides the local population with free healthcare. I had the opportunity to go door to door with Barrio Adentro in order to carryout the local census that is essential for the first phase of a national vaccination plan. On the 12 March 2010, eight female community activists began a voluntary brigade with a doctor and nurses from the clinic. They have now visited every family in the area in order to find out what vaccinations have already been received by each family member and which vaccinations they need as part of the national plan. The national plan is offering ten free vaccinations across various age groups. This has been organized by the Ministry of Popular Power for Health under the banner “vaccination is a right!”, again this is a refreshing change from the health service in the UK, although currently it is a public, thirteen years of Labour Government has seen the selling off essential sections of our health service to private companies whose only interest is making a profit.

Mission Ribas
I also had the opportunity to get involved with the local Mission Ribas which currently has twenty students enrolled in night school classes at the local school. Mission Ribas was one of the first free education missions to be initiated in Venezuela in 2003, after Mission Robinson, a literacy and numeracy program and Mission Sucre, a university entrance program.

Using a system developed in Cuba, the mission teaches English, maths, grammar, science and Venezuelan history amongst other subjects, with the aid of specially formulated DVD’s. After 2-3 years students graduate from the project with a qualification that allows them to study at university. The Mission is mainly focused in supporting people who didn’t finish school with a qualification, thus preventing them from inscribing on a university course. Mission Ribas began in La Salina in 2003 and before this Mission Robinson functioned in La Salina. Currently Mission Robinson does not function as everyone who wanted to participate has passed through the course. The Missions were introduced by Ivonne and Rafael along with other community activists and original students like Alba Taillae have passed and become facilitators of Mission Ribas or become involved in the local section of Mission Cultura in the area.

Although La Salina, and Venezuela in general, primarily has a young population, the grandparents have certainly not been forgotten. I had the privilege of spending a few hours with Haideé de Amato who helps organise the local grandparents club that meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the support of Barrio Adentro. The club provides free and regular medical checks for the older people and includes 45 minutes of exercise. Thirteen people from La Salina attend each session and a sister session in Vista al Mar higher up the mountain overlooking the community serves another thirty-three people.

As a local weekend and vacation destination for city dwellers of Caracas and surrounds, La Salina regularly hosts crowds of Venezuelans looking to relax by the beach. Whilst this obviously supports the local economy it also contributes to pollution. As is the case in so many cities and villages in Venezuela, the problem of rubbish is huge. Often after a weekend or national holiday, the beach is littered with plastic, glass bottles and paper, something which is compounded by a lack of bins. However, recently children from the local school have been carrying out questionnaires and surveys with the aim of commencing a project to clean up the beaches and develop better rubbish bin provision. This is also helped by daily rubbish collection from the local state services and a weekly beach litter pick.

The local PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) battalion is located centrally in the village and holds meetings twice monthly. They are now gearing up for the national assembly elections in September and soon will be going house to house to start the campaign. Over 80% of the population of La Salina is inscribed in the PSUV and almost everyone supports the Chavez government and the Bolivarian revolution. As Haideé de Amato from the Grandparents club emotionally told me, “never before has a president done so much to support the poor people of Venezuela, almost everything here in the community of La Salina is new thanks to this government and our revolution, we have Barrio Adentro, a new Bolivarian school, the education Missions, the housing project, the food house. That’s why so many people here support our president; we will fight for our revolution as we can’t afford to loose all the gains we have made”

All in all my experience of living in La Salina has been a revolutionary one. The kind of community provision and process of popular power, while not perfect and with obviously many improvements that can be made, has built a community that has a future worth fighting for, a future in the Bolivarian Revolution.

Viva Chavez!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Selective Commendation, Selective Indignation: Recent Media Coverage of Cuba

Source: Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque)

by Emily J. Kirk, Cambridge University, John M. Kirk, Dalhousie University and Norman Girvan, University of the West Indies.
14 April 2010.

The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused some 230,000 deaths, left 1.5 million homeless, and has directly affected 3 million Haitians -1/3 of the population. On March 31, representatives of over 50 governments and international organizations gathered at the United Nations Haiti Donor Conference to pledge long-term assistance for the rebuilding of Haiti. At the conference, Cuba made arguably the most ambitious and impressive pledge of all countries-to rebuild the entire National Health Service. While the efforts of other government have been praised, those of Cuba, however, have largely been ignored in the media.

The aim of Cuba's contribution is to completely reconstruct the Haitian health care system-and to do so in a sustainable manner. The new system will be based on the Cuban model, embracing primary, secondary and tertiary health care, in addition to the training of additional Haitian doctors in Cuba.

In summary:
- The primary level will include 101 clinics to treat annually an estimated 2.8 million patients, perform 1.3 million emergency operations, deliver 168,000 babies, and provide 3 million vaccinations.
- The secondary level will be provided through 30 community hospitals. They will have the capacity to treat annually 2.1 million patients, and provide 1 million emergency surgeries, 54,000 operations, 276,000 electro-cardiograms, 107,000 dental exams, 144,000 diagnostic ultrasounds, and 487,000 laboratory tests. In addition, due to the high numbers of poly-traumatized patients, the 30 rehabilitation rooms will be included throughout the country and will provide 2.4 million therapeutic treatments for some 520,000 patients.
- The tertiary level of health care will be delivered by the Haitian Specialties Hospital, staffed by 80 Cuban specialists. It will contain various clinical departments, and will be used for research and teaching, as well as the further training of Haitian professionals who will gradually replace the Cuban professionals.
- Finally, 312 additional medical scholarships are to be provided for Haitian students to study in Cuba.[1]

What is also significant point is that these are not just 'pledges' from Cuba, but rather a development of medical assistance which has been provided over the last eleven years, and dramatically increased since the earthquake.
A Cuban medical brigade has been in Haiti since 1999 and has "a presence in 127 of the 137 Haitian communes, saved 223,442 lives, treated 14 million people, performed 225,000 operations and delivered 109,000 babies"[2].

Furthermore much of the promised programme is already in place, as "post-quake, 23 of these primary care health centers, 15 community reference hospitals and 21 rehabilitation rooms are up and running".

The cost of the Cuban programme over a ten-year period is estimated at $690.5 million-using 50 percent of international prices for services of this kind[3]. This is an enormous amount for a small developing country (11.2 million population); and moreover one that has been under a crippling economic blockade from its powerful neighbor for nearly half-a-century[4].
It is even more notable when compared to those of other governments, particularly those of industrialized countries. For example, Cuba's contribution in relation to its GDP is 155 times that of the United States,which pledged $1.15 billion[5].
Among other G-7 countries, France, the former colonial power, pledged $188.93 million, Germany $53.17 million, Japan $75 million, and Canada $375.23 million, while Italy and the United Kingdom, though not specifically listed, were probably included in the $203.19 million pledge that was made in the name of "EU Remaining" group of countries.[6]

Hence in absolute terms the monetary value of Cuba's contribution is almost 4 times that of France, 12 times that of Germany, and almost twice that of Canada. Indeed, excluding the U.S., Cuba's contribution is more than the rest of the G7 countries combined, as well as 35% more than the contribution of the World Bank ($479 million). In all, 59 pledges were made from governments, regional blocs and financial institutions.

In other words, while other countries are pledging money, Cuba is actively creating an entire sustainable health care system which will treat 75% of the Haitian population,[7] and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

And yet, in spite of the extraordinary value of this commitment, it has been largely ignored by the principal North American media.

Media Representation of United Nation Haiti Donor Conference, Including Cuba and the United States' Contributions [8].

News AgencyNo. of Posts on UN Haiti Donor ConferenceNo. of Posts on US Monetary Contribution after Donor ConferenceNo. of Posts on the UN Haiti Conference Mentioning Cuba
New York Times430
Boston Globe310
Washington Post1270
Miami Herald1181

As we can see from the accompanying Table, of 38 posts on the Haiti Donor Conference in five major U.S. media on the ten days following the Conference, only one mentioned the Cuban contribution- and that only briefly. Moreover, CNN, New York Times, Boston Globe, and the Washington Post entirely ignored Cuba's contribution. The amount of media coverage is also instructive in indicating the gradual decline in media interest following the disaster. That said, the UN Haiti Donor Conference was clearly worthy of widespread attention, with a major gathering of some of the world's leading decision-makers - yet there was noticeably little published about it, and especially about Cuba's extraordinary contribution.

In addition, our analysis of the first fifty results in Google News for 'United Nations Haiti Donor Conference', generated only two articles that mentioned Cuba's role. One of these focused on the rarity of Cuban and United States officials working together. By contrast, 31 of the 50 articles discuss the contributions of developed countries at the Donor Conference, and 21 specifically discuss that of the United States - 9 of which mention the $1.15 billion pledged by the US government.

Indeed a content analysis of the articles reveals that their main theme was the importance of the role of the United States in helping Haiti. The dollar amount pledged was repeatedly stated, and the U.S. effort was often described as being equally (or more) important than that of the UN.
According to one article, "The biggest contributions came from the United States and the European Union".[9] Even if one compares the absolute amounts pledged, this is simply not true - as the Venezuelan pledge was for $2.4 billion. Another article singles out the United States, explaining "Over 140 nations, including the United States, have provided immediate assistance and relief to millions of Haitians",[10] and in media coverage the United States consistently headed the list of contributing countries.

Another article lists the United States as having a more important role than the United Nations, noting "Haiti's friends, as they are called - including the U.S., France, Brazil, Canada, the UN and the Red Cross".[11] In sum, while relief efforts in Haiti were/are an international affair, the media have largely focused on contributions made by the United States.

Another common theme in coverage was the lack of assistance from other countries. Hence, when the assistance of the United States was not praised, those of other countries were denigrated. As one article states, "The United States pledged $1.15 billion, in addition to the $900 million it has already given... By comparison, China pledged $1.5 million yes, you read it right, million with an "m" -- in addition to the nearly $14 million it has already given".[12] Thus, there is a consistent pattern of disproportionately positive representation by the media of the role of the United States, one that both emphasizes the actual pledge and ignores blatantly the significant Cuban pledge.

There is a dramatic contrast between the cover-up of Cuba's extraordinary contribution to Haiti by mainstream US media and the enormous attention by the same media on alleged human rights abuses in that country. Literally dozens of articles on this topic have appeared in recent weeks. Of particular media interest was the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (a jailed "dissident" with a criminal record who refused food for 80 days before dying) and the hunger strike of Guillermo Fariñas. The death of Zapata as a result of the hunger strike continues to be written about and discussed. Indeed it has been used consistently as a springboard to increase criticism of the Cuban government.

The table below illustrates the extent of this coverage.

Media Coverage of Hunger Strikes in Cuba between February 10 and April 9 [13]

News AgencyNumber of Stories about the Cuba Hunger Strikes
New York Times7
Washington Post13
Boston Globe4
Miami Herald48

In analyzing the coverage of these two Cuba-related stories, the difference in the number of articles is quite striking, and reveals a clear disinterest in providing any positive information on Cuba, while at the same time maintaining a significant appetite to criticize Cuba. The comparison of the two in the following table is telling.

Comparison between Media Coverage of Hunger Strikes in Cuba and Cuba's Contribution at the United Nations Haiti Donor Conference from February 10 to April 9.

News AgencyNumber of Stories about Hunger Strikes In Cuba Feb 10 - April 9Number of Posts Regarding UN Haiti Donor Conference that Mention Cuba March 31 - April 9
New York Times70
Washington Post130
Boston Globe40
Miami Herald481

As a result, instead of reporting on an enormously important and topical story on a programme aimed at improving the lives of 75% of Haiti's population, the media have chosen to focus on the individual cases of two men who have consciously and deliberately decided to embark on a suicidal course. It does not take much to work out that the aim is to embarrass the Cuban government by following these "human interest" stories about two individuals who oppose the Cuban government, presenting them as martyrs. It is also obvious that there is a clear media filter, one which seeks to prevent any media coverage that could be construed as being positive of Cuba-in this case seen in the government's commitment to the reconstruction of Haiti.

In examining the media's representation of Cuba's role in Haiti's development and the stories of two "dissidents", it is clear that politically biased "infotainment" has won out. Sadly (but perhaps predictably), in their coverage of Cuba, the media in the "developed world" have focused on the latter while ignoring Cuba's remarkable offer that will surely and significantly improve the lives of millions of Haitians, (while at the same time highlighting the role and contribution of the United States). Yet again we have an example of selective commendation and selective indignation in the North American media's presentation of Cuba.

[1] "Pledge Statements". United Nations International Donors' Conference Towards A New Future For Haiti". 2010. Retrieved 6 April, 2010.
[2] From the statement by Foreign Minister Rodriguez.
[3] The total "includes the medical services provided, calculated at 50% of international prices; the sustainability of these services and the personnel providing them; and the training of a further 312 Haitian doctors in Cuba". Whereas the Official Text of the Cuban Statement published on the UN website refers to this cost "over four years", the text of Foreign Minister's Bruno Rodriguez's speech as published by Granma International refers to this cost over ten years (see Overseas Territories Review).
[4] Speech given at the United Nations by Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. See "Declaración del Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba en la Reunión de Donantes a Haití".
[5] Cuba's contribution is approximately 1.22 percent of its GDP ($56.52 billion in 2009); that of the U.S. amounts to 0.00785 percent of its 2008 GDP ($14,204 billion)
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from, See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from, See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from, See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from, See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from, See search results for "United Nations Haiti Donor Conference". Retrieved 10 April, 2010 from
[9] "UN Haiti Donor Pledges Surpass Target of Almost $10 Billion". BBC. 1 April, 2010. Retrieved 10 April, 2010.
[10] Esther Brimmer. "Rebuilding Haiti: A Global Response to a Global Crisis". The Huffington Post. 12 April, 2010. Retrieved 12 April, 2010.
[11] Wilnetz, Amy. "Renew Haiti From The Ground Up". NY Daily News. 12 April, 2010. Retrieved 12 April, 2010.
[12] Andres Oppenheimer. "China Should Be Ashamed of Its Aid to Haiti". Miami Herald. 3 April, 2010. Retrieved 10 April, 2010.
[13] See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from, See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from, See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from, See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from, See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from, See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 April, 2010 from

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Eight Colombians Arrested on Suspicion of Spying in Venezuela


By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas, April 7, 2010

Eight Colombian citizens have been arrested in Venezuela on suspicion of carrying out espionage against the country's national electricity system Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarek El Aissaimi announced on Tuesday.

Among the equipment seized from the suspects was a camera with images of various electricity substations around the country, transmission lines and national transport infrastructure, as well as satellite communications equipment, documents in English and Spanish, a vehicle, a number of cell phones and "other items of interest," El Assaimi said.

Speaking on state-owned television channel VTV on Tuesday, President Hugo Chavez reported that some of the suspects were carrying Colombian military identification, which he said was still to be authenticated but also called on the Colombian government to "clarify" the situation.

"One of them ... , a guy named Louis, a man of 52 years ... worked for several years, he says, as a doctor in the Colombian Army. He's Colombian born from Medellin," said the President.

Colombian Preisdent Alvaro Uribe responded today confirming that two of the suspects, Crucelda Giraldo Gil and Luis Palacio Cossio, had previously worked at the Military Dispensary in Medallin, but said the group were only "doing tourism."

According to Chavez the group operated behind the facade of a company based in Barinitas, in the state of Barinas, and had been captured "thanks to military intelligence, political intelligence and popular participation."

The president reiterated that Venezuelan intelligence agencies and state security remain in constant surveillance of all the electrical installations in the country. "We have increased surveillance and patrolling in all the plants, from the smallest to the Guri [Hydroelectric Dam, which provides 70 percent of Venezuela's electricty]. We are required to maintain close surveillance at all levels," he said.

Venezuelan National Guard officials took over an electricity installation in the state of Aragua after an explosion, thought to be an act of sabotage, occured at the plant in March.

Venezuela has been experiencing electricity shortages for several months as a result of structural problems in the sector and a record drought which has brought water levels in the Guri Dam to critical lows.

Chavez declared a state of emergency in the electricity sector in February and introduced a series of measures aimed at increasing electrity production and distribution and reducing consumption, including rationing, construction of new infrastructure, an awareness campaign and energy saving incentives.

Electricty workers, who have been denouncing structural problems for several years, accuse management sectors opposed to the process of nationalisation and unification of the sector which began in 2007, of sabotage and hampering the development of new infrastructure.

As a result a number of managers have been sacked and a process of workers control has been initiated across the sector, with workers assemblies meeting around the country over the past week to devise a strategic plan to address the crisis.

During his comments on VTV Chavez criticised the U.S. backed opposition, which had predicted a general collapse of the electricity system on April 6, of trying to take advantage of the crisis.

"[The opposition] have been working on this, announcing the collapse and trying to generate different types of sabotage," he said...

...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

'Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution' Venezuelan Speaking Tour, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Newcastle, 24-25 April, 2 May, 10 May 2010

Friends, compañeros, comrades,

Up to four Venezuelan activists, some members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are on a speaking tour of Britain towards the end of April. They come at a time when the Bolivarian Revolution has reached a critical stage.The programme of nationalisations - of banks, industries, food distribution networks - has thrown down a direct challenge to the economic power of the ruling class and its imperialist supporters.

•How is this process being carried forward?
•What are the political implications?

Come and hear these representatives of a real revolutionary process, in:

Saturday 24 April, 2-5pm
El Rincon Latino, Roscoe Street, L1

Sunday 25 April, 1.30pm- 5pm
Cross Street Unitarian Chapel, Cross Street, Manchester, M2

Sunday 2 May, 7pm
Upstairs at the Compass Pub, Penton Street (corner of Chapel Market), Angel, London N1

Monday 10 May, 7pm
Room NB442, Northumberland Building,
Northumbria University

These meetings are organised in conjunction with Maura Duffy, a PhD student and Graduate Assistant at the University of Manchester. The four comrades are:

Rosa Pulido: Rosa is a resident of Cano Amarillo in Caracas and an active member of her local Communal Council and other community organisations. She also works as a ‘Promotora Comunal’ or Community Developer for the education department of the Parochial Council and as a teacher at the Bolivarian University (UBV) in Caracas.

Eduardo Mujica: an artist and community activist, will speak about his personal experiences in the underground guerrilla movement and of his political persecution and imprisonment in the 1980s, and give a personal account of the Caracazo uprising of 1989. Eduardo currently works as a lecturer at UNEARTE (The Experimental University for the Arts) in Caracas and for the Ministry of Culture.

Rafael Ramos: is a student of art at UNEARTE (The Experimental University for the Arts) in Caracas and the creator and Co-ordinator of the Frente Humanista Unido por las Artes (FHUARTS-27), a revolutionary student movement. Rafael is also a member of the youth wing of the PSUV Party in Venezuela and will talk about the role of the Party in the Bolivarian Revolution.

Nestor Garcia: is a student of art at UNEARTE, the spokesperson of FHUARTS-27 and a Facilitator in Mission Sucre.

If you missed RATB's speaking tour of 2008 with Che Guevara's deputy Orlando Borrego and others, don't miss this opportunity!

In solidarity,

Manchester RATB

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dissidents or Traitors?

by Atilio A. Boron
Translation by: Machetera

The 'free press' in Europe and the Americas – the one that lied shamelessly about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or described the putschist regime of Micheletti in Honduras as 'interim' – has redoubled its ferocious campaign against Cuba. As a result, it’s important to distinguish between the true reason for it, and the pretext. The first, which establishes the global framework for this campaign, is the imperial counter-offensive launched near the end of the Bush administration, and whose most resounding example was the reactivation and mobilization of the Fourth Fleet. Contrary to the predictions of certain gullible people, this policy, dictated by the military-industrial complex, was not merely continued but reinforced by the recent treaty signed by Obama and Colombia’s President Uribe, through which the United States is to be granted the use of at least seven military bases in Colombian territory, diplomatic immunity for all U.S. personnel affected by these operations, license to bring in or remove any kind of cargo without authorities in the host country being able to register what’s coming in or going out, and the right of U.S. expeditionary forces to enter or leave Colombia using any kind of i.d. card whatsoever attesting to their identity.

As if all that were not enough, Washington’s policy of recognizing the 'legality and legitimacy' of the coup d’etat government in Honduras and the subsequent fraudulent elections is yet one more example of the perverse continuity that links policies implemented by the White House, regardless of the skin color of its principal occupant. And in this general imperial counter-offensive, the attack and destabilization of Cuba plays an extremely important role.

These are the true, underlying reasons. But the pretext for this renewed attack was the fatal outcome of the hunger strike of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, now reinforced by an identical action initiated by another 'dissident,' Guillermo Fariñas Hernández and one which will no doubt be followed by those of other participants and accomplices of this aggression. As is well known, Zapata Tamayo was (and continues being) presented by these 'media of mass deception' – as Noam Chomsky adequately described them – as a 'political dissident' when in reality he was an ordinary prisoner who’d been recruited by the enemies of the Cuban revolution, and unscrupulously used as a mere tool of their subversive projects. The case of Fariñas Hernández is not the same, but even so, it holds certain similarities and deepens an argument that must be viewed with complete seriousness.

It’s important to remember that there’s a long history to these attacks. They began at the very triumph of the revolution but, as official and formal policy of the United States government, they began on March 17, 1960, when the National Security Council approved a 'Covert Action Program' against Cuba, proposed by the then CIA Director, Allen Dulles. Partially declassified in 1991, this program identified four main courses of action, with the first two being 'opposition building' and the launching of a 'powerful propaganda offensive' in order to strengthen and make credible that opposition. It couldn’t be clearer.

After the resounding failure of these plans, George W. Bush created a special commission within the State Department itself, in order to promote 'regime change' in Cuba, a euphemism to avoid the phrase 'promote counter-revolution.' Cuba has the dubious privilege of being the only country in the world for which the State Department has designed a project of this sort, thus confirming the unhealthy Yankee obsession with annexing the island, and on the other hand, confirming that José Martí was right when he warned our people about the dangers of U.S. expansionism. The first report from this commission, published in 2004, had 458 pages and explained in the most minute detail everything that should be done to introduce a liberal democracy, respect human rights and establish a market economy in Cuba. To carry out the plan, $59 million dollars a year was budgeted (in addition to the money set aside for undercover action) of which, according to the proposal, $36 million was earmarked for the fomenting and financing of 'dissident' activities. In summary, what the press presents as a noble and patriotic internal dissidence seems rather to be the methodical application of the imperial project designed to complete the old dream of the U.S. rightwing: a definitive takeover of Cuba...

...Read more at Machetera

Open letter from Rafael Cancel Miranda concerning 'hunger striker' in Cuba

Source: Cubadebate
Translation by: Machetera

'The Truth is On the Side of the Cuban Revolution and it Shall Prevail'

To Compañero José Estevez,
Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP, Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People),
25 March 2010.

Of course it is with the greatest of honour and a sense of justice that I am signing the Declaration in Defence of Cuba to counter the hypocritical and cynical campaign by the Yankees and the European Union. With what moral authority can these plunderers of humanity speak of human rights? It’s beyond cynical that those who have never bothered themselves about the deaths by starvation of thousands of children who would have liked very much to have something to eat, should suddenly and in a very orchestrated way pretend to be so worried about someone on a ‘fast.’

This ‘fasting’ gentleman [Guillermo Fariñas] – who I understand is black and is also said to be a psychologist (if so, it is thanks to the Revolution) – has no idea how his race was treated by those who today claim to be so concerned for his health. I was surprised enough to hear about this psychologist because I lived in Cuba under [Cuban presidents] Prío Socarrás and the bloodthirsty Batista and I never knew of any black psychologists. I remember that when the legal and illegal mafias were predominant in Cuba, there were clubs where black people were prohibited from entering and places where they were not even allowed to approach, such as the house belonging to the DuPonts. To be precise, those that organized those clubs were of the same mentality as those who today claim to be worried about the health of the ‘faster.’ I also remember the poverty of my brother, the black man named Saturnino, who worked alongside me repairing streets in Havana.

Seeing as this ‘faster’ is of the noble black race, I’d like to suggest to him that he make a ‘fast’ in favour of the liberation of a group of his black brothers from the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers, who’ve spent more than thirty-five years behind bars in Yankee prisons for having fought for the rights of their race. Here are their names:
* Abdulla Majad
* Sekou Odinga
* Dr. Mutulu Shakur
* Jalil Muntaquim
* Robert Seth Hayes
* Sundiata Acoli

Also having spent more than three decades in prison are:
* compañero Herman Bell, and
* the spiritual leader of the Native Americans (the originals) Leonard Peltier,
* as well as the Puerto Ricans Carlos Alberto Torres and
* Oscar López Rivera.

As well, the ‘faster’ might honour the four compañeros of the Black Liberation Army who died while incarcerated:
* Kuwasi Balagoon,
* Bashir Hameed,
* Albert Nuh Washington,
* Teddy Jah Heath.

And he might also remember his brother, the black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has spent years on death row. Of course, the imperialist and oligarchic press will not mention him, and as we say amongst ourselves, they’ll look the other way; they’ll shut their mouths, just as they remained silent about our Five Cuban antiterrorist brothers, as they’ve remained silent about the rape of Colombian girls by Yankee soldiers, as they’ve said nothing about Haitian women marching to protest the abuses committed against them – including rape – by the Yankee soldiers. Well…they’re black women and dressed in the garments of poverty.

The truth is with the Cuban Revolution and it shall prevail. The fakers will fall in their own trap.

Well, my brother José, I began to write these lines to you some three days ago, but my father in law fell ill and you know what the deal is with healthcare in Puerto Rico. The first thing they ask you is not where it hurts, but how you’re going to pay and go on from there. You can’t believe how many people die because they can’t pay.

Onward, forever!

With a warm Caribbean embrace,

Rafael Cancel Miranda